Monday, 20 October 2008

Star Trek: TNG 2.9 - The Measure of a Man

Review 119 - Episode 115 (Feb 13th 1989)

The One with the Court room drama

A genuinely gripping hour of TV. It boils down to a simple question. What is Data? An android who can mimic humans impressively or a new life form with a soul of it's own?

Maddox wants to take Data apart to learn how he ticks. When Data refuses and decides to resign, Maddox tries to claim he is Starfleet property. Picard refutes this and is forced to go ahead a reluctant Riker who has been drafted as prosecutor with Data's very existence at stake.

There are so many great pieces in here. Having Picard and Riker work against each other is a masterstroke. We see Riker doing his research and almost enjoying the challenge, before remembering it's Data he's trying to deconstruct. His excellent prosecution speech and his internal anguish at having to do it are well portrayed.

Picards defence is also good, though relies more on the human emotive touch and Maddox getting flummoxed. His core argument is sound though and while there was no real doubt he would win, his closing statement made sense and was convincing. Having a history with the presiding judge, Phillipa and there obvious attraction to each other, makes for another layer of interest. Also his scene with Data when he considers Maddox's pffer and is ashamed is Patrick at his best. The rest of the crew don't really get a chance to shine or react to the situation. Wes seems perfectly fine with Data resigning and Geordi is moody and sulking, which doesn't really make the character come across well. Worf and Pulaski have a couple of good one liners, though O'brien gets the best lines at the poker game and is almost an official part of the crew even this early in Season 2.

Troi is strangely missing again and Picards scene with Guinan again highlights the fact that this should really be the ship counsellors job, though Whoopi is a better actor and the obvious slave parallels with American history make her a better choice for the scene than a Greek sex bomb.

Data's final scenes with Riker, who is tortured at the fact he nearly won and with Maddox, who finally sees Data as a man are both excellent and nicely played.

This is Trek at it's best, asking big questions and almost delivering the answers. Maybe the best Data episode ever made.

Overall Star Trek Franchise Rating so far: 347/600

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